Ruthann CarrHoliday visitors.

We all get them. Some stay for a few hours; some a few days. With some, it seems like they stay forever.

Don’t get me wrong. I love having visitors. My husband, Jeff, and I often complain we don’t have enough.

Every year my mother-in-law stays with us for about a week during the Christmas holidays. We enjoy offering her a place with family to celebrate. It gives Jeff a few more points on his side of the ledger to balance out all his brother has.

This year is a bit different. My third grandson was born the day after Thanksgiving. I was lucky enough to spend a week in Akron where he lives to help out his mom and get to know him.

The day I returned was the same day my husband brought his mother for her stay with us.

Maybe you can’t understand this unless you have a bit of introvert in you, but I calm down and recharge by being by myself.

After a week in Akron with my kids and grandkids, sleeping on a bunk bed and trying not to say anything hurtful, I needed some chill time. It takes a lot of energy biting your tongue and not asking probing questions. Plus, I caught some snot-nosed preschool kid’s bug and puked my guts out while I was up there.

I was beat.

One hour after getting home, Jeff and his mom drove up.

It was late. We all went to bed.

The next day is when the fun began.

I looked in my counter-challenged kitchen and saw my mother-in-law had wedged her coffeemaker in between my toaster and my food processor. On top of the toaster was a plate of fruit. On top of my microwave was a smattering of Little Debbie snack cakes (my husband doesn’t come by his passion for those preservative-laden delights from any stranger).

Stuffed into the refrigerator that needs cleaned out was a package of 18 eggs, coffee creamer, lunch meat and various other foods.

What? She thinks she’ll starve?

OK. Take a deep breath.

I walked into the living room to find her in my spot on the couch. I emitted a low-throated growl and sat in the chair. She had the remote. OK. I give up.

I went into my craft room to paint.

Later as I was preparing my Grandma Wagner’s fruitcake recipe and lemon curd, I went to chop nuts in my food processor. It wouldn’t start. It was unplugged and her coffeemaker was plugged in.

I ripped it out and plugged my appliance in.

I looked for my vegetable peeler. I searched the drawers, even those in which no vegetable peeler would ever be found. Nope. Not in the sink either.

“Did you use a vegetable peeler today?”

“Yes,” she answered from my spot on the couch.

“Do you remember where you put it?”

“It’s in the dishwasher.”

OK, I don’t put the vegetable peeler in the dishwasher. Geez.

Later that evening when my mother-in-law got up to go to the bathroom, I reclaimed my spot and grabbed the remote. She came back and sat in the chair.

We watched TV. It never fails, however, when I’m straining to hear the dialogue, she launches into a “Did I ever tell you about the time….” story.

No amount of physical clues will stop her. Not keeping your eyes on the TV. Not absently murmuring uh-huhs now and then. Not answering at all. Nope. She goes on and on until the story is finished.

Read the room, OK?

As I was thinking about regaling my husband with all I had to put up with, I thought of my visit to my kids’ home.

I can’t tell you how many times when my daughter fell asleep on the couch I started talking to her, waking her up.

I insisted on helping my 11-year-old grandson go through his clothes to get rid of those that don’t fit. It took two hours going through piles and piles – tossing out to his mom what was too small and categorizing and folding those he could still wear. No one was happy.

I thought of how I couldn’t stand her city water and bought my own bag of ice.

I made macaroni and cheese for my two grandsons after we went sled riding. I left the pot full of what we didn’t eat on the stove for two days.

I had bags of food I brought stashed under her sink.

She has a combination lock on her door. I could never remember the code. I’d go out saying the code over and over, come back to the door and forget it. For four days either she or my grandson had to open it for me.

At one point he said, “Grandma. Just keep saying it over and over to yourself. That’s how you remember.”

I looked over at my mother-in-law as she finished telling me another story.

Visitors.